Ever since getting into biking 3 years ago (thanks to cargo biking, mind you!), I have found that when I visit a new place, I make it my goal to ride to at least three new sites by bike. So, when my daughter and I were in the Bay Area for a recent trip, I knew we must at least attempt to ride the full span the Golden Gate Bridge (with kiddo as Co-Pilot) and get that checked off my Everyday Adventure bucket list. The difficulty – just to get to the bridge – had me feeling reluctant to go for it but I am so glad we made the effort – the experience was unforgettable!
Our trip to the Golden Gate Bridge actually started with a boat. I really wanted the ease of having a cargo bike on hand for this journey – mostly for that e-assist on those hills but partly to avoid subjecting my daughter to what would be an otherwise exhausting feat for her little legs. We rode from Xtracycle headquarters through Oakland morning rush hour to get to Jack London Square. This stop is the first for the ferry heading back into SF so I knew if we were in the front of the line, getting the bike in the bike carol on the back of the 1st level would be easier since there wouldn’t be a crowd to consider.
We got off early at the Ferry Building as opposed to Pier 41, further along on our route, so that the kiddo could grab a Ford GoBike and ride alongside me for a bit in the bike lanes on the Embarcadero (the road that follows the Bay). She dropped her bike off at the furthest dock along the line and hopped back on the Xtracycle with me for the remainder of our ride. Our monthly Ford GoBike rides had a limit of 45 minutes and $3/15 minutes after that and since we planned to be away from a docking station for awhile, I knew the GoBike wasn’t an economical option for us. Here’s where the cargo bike saved the day!
The ride from the last dock station to the actual bridge was pure magic. We rode along the bay using a bike path the entire way called the Crissy Field Promenade. We passed by countless fun stops – including sandy beaches, rocky beaches, fields full of gorgeous native flowers in bloom and historic sites. On one of our many stops along our journey, we found some enchanting pieces of beach glass, including a glass tea cup handle that has certainly been tumbling around the bay for a few solid decades. The approach to the bridge took our breath away. We were getting so close and the true scale of the Golden Gate Bridge was really starting to sink in.
When we reached the actual bridge approach after riding up a steep little switch back trail from the bike path below, things became a little bit more challenging due to the heavy sightseeing traffic which was to be expected. That said, still totally worth it! The walkway was divided in half – half for pedestrians and half for cyclists. But the cyclists had to ride around one another, while at the same time avoiding pedestrians who also only really had enough room to walk shoulder to shoulder. It wasn’t a huge pain but it made me happy that my experienced cyclist was on the back of my bike since I didn’t have to worry about her navigating this tricky and unpredictable environment. We made sure to stop in the center and when we looked down into the choppy bay waters, we saw a sea lion dancing below. That, combined with the breathtaking views, had us counting our blessings!
We had set out to bike across half of the Golden Gate Bridge but once we reached the halfway point, the kiddo and I were so thrilled and hopped up on endorphins that we just had to ride across the whole darn thing! When we reached the other side, we made our way to the observation point for a snack and to see the Bay from another perspective.
After our hearts were full and my Bucket List was enthusiastically checked, we started our journey back across the Golden Gate bridge and on our way home. The ride back was just as thrilling – all of those epic climbs were now down hills and the memory of what we had just experienced was still fresh in our minds. We stopped at a few locations we passed on our way up and ended at Pier 41 to hop on the ferry back in to Oakland.
If in the Bay area, this is an adventure I would highly recommend, even if you don’t bike it but maybe want to walk some of it. It’s not something you or your family will soon forget. And if you are like me and my kiddo, you can now delight every time the Full House intro kicks in by shouting in unison “We biked that!”
PS: For more info on the facilities available, check out the Golden Gate recreation area’s website.
PSS: Don’t have access to a cargo bike if traveling in town? Check out the great local bike shop rental options!